NIGHTLINE REVAMP UNVEILED

ABC on Monday confirmed long-circulating reports that beginning Nov. 28 the departing Ted Koppel will be replaced on Nightline with a troika, composed of Martin Bashir, Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran, and that the show's staff will be split between New York and Washington units. Although James Goldston, the show's new executive producer, said in a statement that it was "incumbent upon us to find a slightly different approach" following Koppel's departure, the team approach is similar to that of the network's magazine shows. Indeed, McFadden, who sometimes is identified as ABC's legal-affairs correspondent, had become the de facto stand-in for Diane Sawyer on ABC's Primetime Live and Bashir, best known for his celebrity interviews in Britain (and particularly his controversial interview with Michael Jackson) had become a regular contributor to ABC's 20/20. Moran, by contrast, has been ABC's chief White House correspondent since 1999. All three will retain their "day jobs." In an interview with the New York Daily News, Andrew Tyndall, publisher of The Tyndall Report, which analyzes network news, said he presumed that Nightline will now become "one-third true crime, and that will be McFadden, one-third politics, and that will be Moran, and one-third celebrity news, which will be Bashir."

TV SPORTS COLUMNISTS CRY FOUL OVER "BUSH PUSH"

NBC was being roundly criticized by television sports columnists for neglecting to cover the so-called Bush Push that ended Sunday's USC-Notre Dame game. They observed that television cameras clearly showed Reggie Bush pushing SC quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for the winning score just seconds before the game ended. "Bush's helpful action was visible on NBC, but the network's announcers never noticed it ... never said a word," wrote Richard Sandomir in the New York Times. Likewise USA Today's sports television columnist Michael McCarthy noted that the game was regarded as the biggest college game of the year. "Too bad NBC didn't rise to the occasion," McCarthy wrote, noting that the network cut to NASCAR coverage just four seconds after the disputed touchdown was scored. In any case, the game drew huge ratings -- a 7.9 overnight rating and a 17 share.

ABC HIT WITH MORE FLAK OVER REACTOR REPORT

ABC's Primetime Live report Thursday night alleging dangerous breaches of security at the nation's nuclear research reactors continued to draw strong criticism from government officials and university administrators Monday. Roy Zimmerman, in charge of nuclear security for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who appeared on the broadcast and expressed concern over lax security at some of the facilities, said in a statement that the show overstated the threat such incidents posed. At the University of Maryland, where ABC showed open doors leading to the reactor, officials noted that the program failed to take into account the numerous surveillance cameras constantly monitored by university police as well as other locked doors with alarms. When a reporter for the campus newspaper asked ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider why these additional security layers were not noted in the report, he replied, "It seems you've had a lot of time to talk to a lot of people who have a vested interest in this." In a letter to the Lafayette, In Journal and Courier, Purdue's Lefteri Tsoukalas wrote that the Primetime report "cynically exploited people's instinctive fear of nuclear energy by misrepresenting both the threat from, and the nature of, research reactors, such as the one for which I am responsible at Purdue University." He indicated that he had been alerted that the interns who toured the Purdue reactor were working for ABC. But most importantly, he noted, the reactor itself poses less of a danger to the public than "a corner gas station or the fuel tank for a backyard barbecue." At Penn State University, officials said that a man photographed by the interns sleeping outside its reactor building was a parking attendant and not a guard as the television show alleged. He said that the ABC interns who toured the building had "no idea what security is in place. ABC didn't see the security, and that's the way it should be."

CHARLES ROCKET DEATH RULED A SUICIDE

A coroner in Farmington, CT has ruled that the death of former Saturday Night Live star Charles Rocket was a suicide. Rocket was part of a wholesale recasting of the NBC show in 1980 that also included Joe Piscopo and the then teenaged Eddie Murphy. He was fired a year later after using the f-word during the traditional goodnights at the end of the show.

FOG OBSCURES BOX OFFICE

It was a dismal weekend at the box office. Final figures proved to be even lower than already low weekend estimates, with the top film, Sony's The Fog, earning only $11.8 million. DreamWorks Animation's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was close behind with $11.5 million. Two other new films were regarded as disappointments. Paramount's Elizabethtown had a soft opening with $10.6 million, to place third, while New Line's Domino collapsed with $4.7 million, placing seventh. The total box-office take amounted to $87.8 million, down 10 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. The Fog, Sony, $11,752,917, (New); 2. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, DreamWorks, $11,527,216, 1 Wks. ($33,107,497); 3. Elizabethtown, Paramount, $10,618,711, (New); 4. Flightplan, Disney, $6,492,315, 4 Wks. ($70,783,611); 5. In Her Shoes, 20th Century Fox, $6,105,949, 2 Wks. ($20,056,003); 6. Two for the Money, Universal, $4,686,110, 2 Wks. ($16,595,490); 7. Domino, New Line, $4,670,120, (New); 8. A History of Violence, New Line, $3,600,474, 4 Wks. ($22,364,443); 9. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Warner Bros., $3,577,465, 4 Wks. ($47,769,285); 10. The Gospel, Screen Gems, $3,118,704, 2 Wks. ($12,091,852).

INDIE PRODUCERS TO BE AIDED BY NEW MARK CUBAN COMPANY

Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Entertainment, which recently announced that it intends to shut the window between theatrical, cable and DVD releases, said Monday that it will open its distribution and marketing channels to independent filmmakers through a program called Truly Indie. 2929, which owns the Landmark chain of art-house theaters, recently said that it plans to launch its own DVD label. In a statement, Wagner said, ""There are many filmmakers producing compelling, original projects who do not have access to traditional distribution. ... We wanted to find new ways to open the market to these films."

20TH JOINS DIGITAL PROJECTION PUSH

Twentieth Century Fox has become the latest film studio to strike a deal with Christie/AIX to help underwrite the costs of installing digital projectors in as many as 4000 movie houses. The deal essentially contains the same provisions as one struck recently with the Walt Disney Co. under which the studio will initially pay the same amount to show a movie transmitted to the theaters digitally as it would for a film print -- until the costs of the projection equipment are amortized. It costs roughly $1,500-$3,000 for each movie print sent to theaters, including distribution costs. A digital print can be distributed for a tiny fraction of that amount.

SCHWARZENEGGER WANTS TO TERMINATE VIDEO GAME LAWSUIT

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed Monday to fight a lawsuit brought by the Entertainment Software Assn. and the Video Software Dealers Assn. challenging a new law barring the sale of violent video games to children. "I will do everything in my power to preserve this new law and I urge the attorney general to mount a vigorous defense of California's ability to prevent the sale of these games to children," Schwarzenegger said. But Bo Anderson of the VSDA observed that courts have already declared that such laws are a violation of the First Amendment. He said that the California law "is so imprecisely drafted that it is impossible to decipher which video games are covered by its provisions. The law also ignores the existing video game rating system and retailers' programs to enforce those ratings in their stores." The governor himself is depicted in several video games based on violent movies in which he appeared during his years as an actor.

SONY TO BRING BACK ROCKY

Rocky is planning to make a comeback after 15 years in retirement. Sony, MGM, and Revolution studios announced Monday that they are working with Sylvester Stallone on a sixth Rocky movie that the actor will write and star in. They said they are planning to release he film next year, thirty years after the premiere of the original Rocky.

JACKSON DUMPS KING KONG MUSIC

Only seven weeks before the scheduled premiere of his remake of King Kong, Peter Jackson has dumped Howard Shore's score for the movie and plans to replace it with a new one by James Newton Howard. Shore had written and conducted the score of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Howard's credits include the scores for Batman Begins, The Village, and Waterworld. In a statement, Jackson said: "During the last few weeks, Howard and I came to realize that we had differing creative aspirations for the score of King Kong. Rather than waste time arguing with a friend and trying to unify our points of view, we decided amicably to let another composer score the film."

ISLAMIC MILITIA STORMS SOMALI STUDIO

Armed members of Somalia's Union of the Islamic Courts militia on Monday stormed the studios of a company that translates Indian films into the Somali language, confiscating hundreds of video tapes and destroying equipment, news reports said. The chairman of the studio, Abdihakim Mohamed Haji, told China's Xinhua news agency," They threw some of our televisions out the windows of the second floor. Others were just smashed off with the butt of their guns." The chairman of the Union of the Islamic Courts, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, acknowledged that the attack had been carried out, noting that the courts regard watching movies as a "satanic" activity and "therefore unlawful." Ahmed added, "What's considered as harmful to the public will be destroyed.